Tampa, Florida (CNN) - Billionaire industrialist David Koch, who critics accuse of bankrolling a fierce and costly campaign against President Obama, offered a rare rebuttal to Democratic attacks against him on Thursday.
Koch rarely speaks to the press. But at an event near the site of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, he responded to a CNN question regarding the Obama campaign's targeting of him as a prime political opponent.
Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker, catch the latest updates from the GOP convention on CNN's 2012 Conventions Live Blog, and check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator to game out your own strategy for November.
"We live in a country that believes in free speech," he said. "I'm a Republican and I believe in fiscal responsibility and supporting American business. So I think I have a right to speak out."
"The president says what he wants to. But I believe in free speech," Koch added.
The event - a private reception - was sponsored by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, a prime supporter of the tea party movement. CNN was the only television network allowed to attend.
The event was titled, "A Salute to Entrepreneurs Building America." Besides Koch, also in attendance were AFP Chairman Art Pope and Republican lawmakers Jon Kyl, the Arizona senator, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, and Georgia Rep. Tom Price. Hundreds of grassroots activists also attended.
Koch is the chairman of the AFP Foundation, the group's 501 (c)(3) whose work aims at "educating citizens about the value of limited government and a free market economy." He, along with brother Charles Koch, are the titans behind Koch Industries - the second-largest privately held company in the U.S.
The pair are fierce promoters of free enterprise. At the event, Koch defended his ideals.
"I think what is one of the greatest concerns that I have, that AFP is working on, is the deficits that the federal government is running which has risen to gigantic levels," Koch said. "And I'm very concerned that if these deficits continue, for years to come, that it's going to cause runaway inflation, the debt service will become unaffordable of the federal debt. And this country will see a terrible collapse. And I don't want to see this country collapse like Greece is doing or become like Zimbabwe with runaway inflation."
Sen. Johnson said: "We are in a fight for freedom. And let's face it: from my standpoint, the greatest threat to freedom is ignorance. And what Americans for Prosperity bring to the table is information."
Koch is a supporter of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. In July, the corporate titan hosted a private fundraiser for Romney at his estate in Southampton.
The Kochs have also been accused of bankrolling political attacks against the president and their Democratic opponents.
AFP has spent tens of millions of dollars in a broadcast campaign critical of President Obama. But detractors accuse the brothers of trying to sway the election towards conservatives and, in turn, advance policies that would benefit their own corporate interests.
Supporters of the Kochs have long denied those claims.
The Obama campaign has previously targeted the Kochs.
In February, the president's campaign sent out a fundraising letter tying the Kochs to Romney and accusing the brothers of bankrolling "tea party extremism" and committing $200 million in an attempt "to destroy President Obama before Election Day."
In response, Koch Companies Public Sector wrote an open letter directly to the Obama campaign.
"It is both surprising and disappointing that the President would allow his re-election team to send such an irresponsible and misleading letter to his supporters," the letter stated. It went on to defend the brothers' free market principles and denied they had committed $200 million against the president.
At Thursday's event, Koch also answered a reporter's question about being vilified by his detractors.
"Well, that's massively inaccurate in my opinion," Koch said. "I try to do things in life that make the world a better place. I'm very philanthropic. I'm a major contributor to cancer research, medical research. I'm a big supporter of cultural institutions, educational institutions."
Looks like someone can't stand the heat of criticism.
Everyone has a right to free speech. But no one should have a right to buy an election. Buying an election makes one mans free speech more powerful than another mans free speech. Get money out of polotics and government or this country will go down just like other great societies over the years.
Who can't stand the heat of criticism – Obama or Koch?
The problem with SuperPAC's like AFP and others like it is the ability to bring tens of millions of dollars to bear from a few limited and largely undisclosed sources for the sole pupose of expressing a narrow and almost always one sided viewpoint with no accountability after the fact other than to shrug and go "its free speech". But its not free, its very expensive, and it drowns out opposing and not so well funded free speech...the ability to have a viewpoint heard in an election should not drive solely off how many $$$ you have. Election finance law needs to be reformed and SuperPAC's need to be banned as a part of that reform. Anything else will leave US elections up for sale to the highest bidders.
One thing I agree with him on ... we are definitely in a fight for our freedom. And quite frankly I don't want to give up any more of my freedom to him and his cronies. Although I recognize that in all likelihood, it's really too late to do anything about it.
He is turning this country into everything I despise. I place where we champion financial success over common courtesy. Where we look at everything in terms of dollars instead of recognizing that our society is judged based on how we take care of the least fortunate around us. I hate how mean-spirited it seems our country has become. And I'll tell you one thing – it ain't the "liberals" that have caused it.
If Koch actually believed in promoting proserity, he would back the President, no matter which party and not have started a group that is known for its lies. The lies in this campaign are mostly from his group and I will gladly call him out on it.
He has a personal agenda and that is growing his own wealth-period.
I think its pretty simple. If a corporation is using its money to take sides in something as divisive as politics ... people have the right to choose whether or not to do business with them. Designers and buyers don't have to deal with Koch if they don't like what they stand against.
It would be nice to reveal other donors for the group. I would hope that Koch can understand that not everyone plays by the same set of rules. These brothers don't see that rules make the playing field level.
Speak all you want, just stop trying to buy our government.
He thinks the world revolves around the likes of the rich. Pretty soon we will be a two class country the "we have everything" and" the barely getting by" !!!! Way to buy an election republicans. Those of us who used to be in the middle class will remember and your time will come. The bible says the rich are not welcome in the life beyond this one.
A big time GOP supporter trying to buy the the election. This is big business at it's worst. Don't bet he is doing this out of the kindness of his heart. He sees big time profits if Romney is elected. He is right he contributes to other causes, but he get's a big tax break for doing so! No one person should be able to financially I fluency an election.
Who is HE kidding. He INHERITED this money. He didn't EARN it, it was given to him. Now he thinks he's a genius. Okay, well, let's look at his raiding of the government coffers in Colorado for under the radar land swaps that put guys who took bribes in jail. Yea, he's for free speech, as long as he's slandering someone else.
Why don't the Koch brothers come clean on trying to steal the Wisconsin public power plants,they're in secret negotiations with your buddy Scott Walker behind closed doors,oops the cats out of the bag,my bad!!Or how Walker gave billions in tax cuts to these corporations than turned around and then said we have a budget deficet that's in grave danger,just about the same amount,coincidence,I don't think so..Then the job chopping began in public sector jobs,pensions curtailed and contracts with unions nullified with provisions in the future that unions basically have no say in contract negotiations in the future.Residents say Walkers right but those are your dumb Wisconsinites,just wait till this thing simmers over like in NY when you couldn't get any assistence in the public sector,you'll see,don't say I didn't warn yah,Walker won't!!He got what his handlers wanted,didn't they!!
Having more money apparently means having a bigger voice. This is NOT free-speech. This is just more money and power. Can I run ads across several states to get MY GUY into office? Can I donate 10 million to MY guy, ensuring he is in MY pocket when I need legislature only I can benefit from passed?
Koch.. YOU are whats wrong with American politics.
Atlas Shrugged theatrics! Let bring the country to their knees. Because like Clint Eastwood said, we own it!
Koch Brothers trying to "buy the election" their way = evil.
George Soros buying the election his way = that's ok.
Guess it all depends which side you're on.
The billionaires want Obama to lose because he believes in fairy play that everyone should pay their share of taxes. So you see this guy bankrolling so much money in this election just to make sure that Obama does not get a second term. What do you expect the rich supports the rich and the middle class feels the crunch and if you think he worries about the middle class he is bluffing.
Free enterprise and small government?
what a joke.
big oil exists due to "big government" and government benefits. ever hear of the oil depletion allowance
how many U.S. Govt policies in the mid-east are based on protecting oil
I'm sure the Koch brothers are nice fellows, but their idea that the oil industry was built on free enterprise and small government is laughable.
► And what Americans for Prosperity bring to the table is information."◄
They are saturating the TV here in VA bashing Kaine and Obama!!! NO ONE, Allen or Kaine, are running ads against each other; they are both SILENT. Kaine is being slaughtered and I don't hear anything coming from the Democrat side; again, Allen is SILENT too!!!
I am SICK of the ads.............Period!!!
Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!
This guy and his brother are ruining America.
wow, just looked at the bios for both the romney's and guess who went were to school and were they ever 'low income'? give me a break. he went to cranbrook which an exclusive private school and she went the same type. i have nothing against hard work and prosperity, howeer, don't make like you were ever poor to appeal to the masses. there are lots of jobs available now, but at minimum wage and no benefits. what happened to bipartismship? this is what we need, not a lot of rhetoric that one person will do it all. if romney wins, companies will begin to hire because they will want to show that the new pres. made everything happen. time will tell. and what was clint eastwood all about? i honestly do not care about the religion of the president or the cabinet, i just want them to do the best they can and all work together. that's the real issue.
What, no Rothschilds, Morgans, Rockefellers, or otherwise? Koch must think HE'S the only illuminati...
Obama is a failure. That is a factual observation by Obama's own standards that he set for himself – an utter failure not deserving of a second term. Right now, Obama is desparately trying to hang onto his job using every dirty trick, straw issue, and political ploy in the book – in doing so, he has demeaned and disgraced the office of the Presidency, and in so doing, has widened the divide between Americans and poured political gasoline on the partisanship fire that theatens to destroy our nation. 4 more years of Obama will set this nation back 20 or more years.
Liberals only want to talk about legal constributions of the Koch Brothers and "buying an election." They don't want to mention George Soros and all his contributions to do the same thing. He likes the turmoil that has been created so he can make more millions by the way he manipulates currencies. People don't realize that he makes his money by buying and selling short, in plainer words, betting, on currencies, and the more movement due to uncertainty, be more opportunities he has. But shhh, don't tell anyone!
And I suppose you think that the millions being poured into the most viscous attack ads by Koch, Rove, and their billionaire buddies are something other than dirty tricks and straw man arguments and that they have as their purpose bringing Americans together. You are delusional.